Come along for the journey!

Come along for the journey!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

OLD MAN PETERS: (Sioux Falls, South Dakota USA)

Grandpa can make anything. You know the way the A-Team would always hide away in some tool shed ('Shop' for y'all American listeners) and after a few hours it seemed, with only some scrap metal and a few spare nuts 'n' bolts would pop out in an armoured tank with a can of whoop-ass…well that's a little like how Grandpa approaches things from his 700 square foot 'shop', fixing their van, or the neighbours lawnmower, or making an illuminated metal cross for their church, all out of things found at a garage sale.

There's a tool for everything in there…in fact there's five of each tool for everything! Talented man. Meanwhile, Grandma is cooking bean soup, Neko's in the yard sewing, Jane is painting. It's the Waltons!

We're not as genetically inclined to be so resourceful in our clan, so I'm glad I've married into a handy family. Until recently, it was a stretch for anyone in our family to even put a shelf up.

On another matter, we saw a load of old photos in Gr&Gr's albums. Fascinating to see Neko's roots. We came across a peculiar pic, one that Grandpa took in earnest, but that we found quite funny. Sorry Grandpa. His cherished pet dog of his youth is seen bounding around, and then...well, dead.

You're not alone in your photographic preferences Grandpa...Grandma Humphrys on Kris' side once amused us all with a group photograph of friends from Church. The lady at the centre of the picture was clearly in pain but mustering up a smile. On further investigation, she had a broken arm. When asked why she would take a photo at such a time, Grandma responded with perfect sense "well, everyone was seemed an opportune moment".

Grandpa is certainly one of the humblest and content people I have met - probably a good idea that we spent a good amount of time with them eh?!!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

HOME, HOME ON THE RANGE: (Sioux falls, South Dakota USA)

So nice to get to know the family better. We've been hanging out with Neko's cousin Mike. His wife Laura is great and her family all live around the golf course and driving range. We went for a round where I got to cruise around in their 'Pimp my ride' golf kart, don some white gloves and show Mike a thing or two.

Thing number one - "This is how you break the clubhouse window"…

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

FAMILY TIME: (Sioux falls, South Dakota USA)

The family, with it's proud Norwegian roots, is battling to hold on to it's identity in the decreasingly Scandinavian ghetto of the midwest. After Grandma's initial disappointment that Neko wasn't marrying a true blood Norwegian, she found the fact that I have a Norwegian name and all my own teeth a consolation of sorts.
Cuz'n Dave Monen said "You know you're redneck when your family tree only has one branch on it". Well that's not how we roll in the Peters, Monen, and Griffin fold: I like to think of my contribution as that of widening the gene pool.

The family have been teaching us Canasta, and we've been introducing them to the wonders of Wimbledon and World Cup football. It's decided, we'll be supporting Norway.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

AIR GUITAR AT PRINCE'S PAISLEY PARK…in my cacks: (Chanhassen nr. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA)

First Avenue Club -
where Prince performs (in) Purple Rain
Our American roadtrip this time has taken us to monuments and places of interest for  Martin Luther King Jr, Abe Lincoln, Muhammad Ali, Bob Dylan, Frank Lloyd Wright - we've even seen Stevie Wonder play at Bonaroo...
But now as the finale for our US 'Tour of Champions', it was time to visit my long time hero, 'His Horniness', Prince Rogers Nelson. I always recall my Grandpa referring to him as "…that randy little man" which I like to think Prince would have quite appreciated.

Neko performs
"Under the Cherry Spoon"
in Minneapolis
As most of you know, it's been a long time that I've been fantasising about what I'd ask Prince if I ever got the chance to meet him. 
Perhaps on this occasion, it'd be "Happy belated birthday"? (Two weeks late - his birthday is June 7th, same as my old cat).
Arriving in his home town of Minneapolis, ringing the bell and taking the liberty of letting ourselves in to his studio grounds and spiritual home at Paisley Park (as no-one seemed to be in!), I was completely blank for things to say. 

Well... nothing says 'I love you Prince' like playing air geeetar in your nick nacks. 

Actually, Prince has a very good sense of humour, and I figured if he was watching out of a window he'd probably find that quite funny, compared to all the rock journo's and fans in the world asking him, "Who was Darling Nikki?", or "Why didn't you release Camille and Sign 'O' the Times together?", or "Do you think your songs about God changed much after you'd got a whole lotta naughtiness out your system?" (I would actually like to know these). 


Conversely, as he is very protective of his privacy - he may in fact have been horrified by our visit. 
If he'd actually answered the door, he may have retorted, "How would you like it if I turned up at your house in my panties and played air guitar in your front garden?" 

Monday, 21 June 2010


In homage to Neko's heritage, we stopped in small-town 'Norway'. At the Norwegian Deli, in addition to enjoying some good 'down-home cookin' and Neko's fav Reuben sandwich, we were pleased to leaf through the assortment of magazines.

Aside from two dragster car magazines, the remaining fifty or so were all guns and military. Quality journalism from Ducks Unlimited, The Michigan Marines news, and American Rifleman, informed us about the virtues of owning personal handguns and a concealed weapons permit, the good work being done to defend the second amendment's 'right to carry firearms', and where I could buy the latest Taurus 9mm 709 Slim with "No revealing bumps and lines", which keeps 'the Slim' hidden under the lightest T-shirts or polos. God bless America!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

600 HORSE TOWN: (Mackinac Island, MI, USA)

Famed for fudge, horses, and no cars, "a trip to the past", we were enjoying the carless roads (must be the only place in N. America without fetishised cars) and being able to have fun cycling a rented tandem 'hands free', using feet to steer.

Well our experiment ended up with us cycling along main street on our tandem, no-handed, just as it was being lined by crowds for a parade in a few minutes time. We rolled in like the main event! To cheers of applause (selective hearing) we balanced our trusty tandem to the rental shop where we had to muster up the dying American art of diplomacy to have our deposit returned.


Last night we were looking for a rest stop to sidle up in on route to the upper peninsula. We asked directions from a fellow who was still up at 12:30 working on his Bike in the garage and nursing the last of a long string of beers after a late night Harley convention.

Not content with directing us to the rest area, the ex-marine gun enthusiast with an impressive hot-rod assembly business, not only had us parking on his drive for the night (actually offered us a room), but also using their shower, drinking their coffee, and taking us to the locally famous "Steak 'n' Egger" for a bumper brekkie the next day. Terrific people Mike, Sarah & lil' Tiff.

We declined the offer of a ride on the bike as he looked like he wanted to scare the begeebies out of us. With the heartiest of thanks and a promise to send a family portrait, we were on our way.


Reading the Time traveller's wife by the Great Lakes
My reading list kinda sums up where we're at right now darling. I'm reading 'The Culture of Make believe' (Gift from Mackenzie), a hard hitting piece of politicised American rhetoric talking about the culture of hate in America - an interesting read as we tour around the South. I'm also reading 'The time traveller's wife', or more specifically, Neko is reading it to me...on picnic blankets or when I'm doing the driving. Nice. Finally, I'm reading the self-help-ish 'Zen & the Art of creative career design' a desperate effort to 'discover' my new vocation, a vocation that I'll enjoy so much that as they say "I'll never have to work another day again".

My favourite book is our cards and dice 'little black' score book, documenting my many conquests against my wife, friends and fellow travellers on the road.

Friday, 18 June 2010


Driving through Michigan, listening to country rock, we hear yet another severe weather warning on the radio - the station gets blocked and a government announcement tells you about the 85mph winds, floods, tornados and other frightening stuff that is about to turn your vacation into a nightmare. We've wrestled on our bike with record winds in Nevada, escaped floods in Arkansas, high winds and storms in Louisville Kentucky, and now here in Michigan too.

I am slightly too fascinated by natural phenomena and have always dreamt of seeing a tornado and the northern lights (I got to be in an earthquake already). This evening we saw the beginning of a tornado (twisting of clouds fingering towards the earth) which touched down only a few miles from us. Weather changes very quickly here - just this morning we were enjoying the wonderful Indianna dunes state park.

Well, all these dreams aside, we are fast approaching the end of our trip, dream time is nearly over and no doubt we'll land in the UK with a thud, and no jobs. We've been giving that a lot of thought. So basically, if you want to give us a job, we're fairly employable, a little out of touch and with no chance of getting up at a reasonable hour, but on the plus side, Neeks now has legal citizenship and an NI number.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

CITY BOY: (Chicago, Illinois, USA)

Inasmuch as I love the countryside, whenever I get back to the city, I feel like I can breath in a deep breath of fresh air. It feels like my natural environment. Mountain tops and river walks refresh me, but I begin to get stir crazy when I'm away from the crowds for too long.

My man Danny always says his ideal is to live in the sticks, then come in for fun on the weekends. I feel the same, but probably reverse it - nice weekend in the country and back to life in the city. Neko? Well she's just a small town gal... It felt good to arrive in Chicago after touring the midwest's parks and amish farms.

BASEBALLS FOR BRAINS: (Chicago, Illinois, USA)

We've just enjoyed a great visit to family friends who've been staying in Sydney Australia, Clarice & Jon. They're American and live on a beautiful lake in Indiana and took us jet-skiing and 'tubing' from the back of a speedboat. Such a larf! Good people.

However, we are perhaps most indebted to them for explaining the mystical appeal of baseball, which until now has been akin to watching paint dry, water torture, cricket…stuff like that. Aside from the pleasures that can be derived (beer, hotdogs, organ jingles, the 7th inning stretch), I previously considered it dull at best, and painful at worst. This is despite my old room mate in NYC Neil's best attempts to convert me with the glorious exploits of the Yankees and some time 'in the cage' at Coney Island with him & Richo. I am an honorary Yankees fan, but not a good one.

 Well, turns out I simply had no idea what the hot dog was going on. Learning the nuances between 'walk and steal', 'loaded bases and double-play', 'pitch and slog', has enabled me to follow a live game today at the legendary Cubs Wriggly field without slipping into a coma. My new found enthusiasm for the game is already waning however, as the World Cup footy and Wimbledon get into full swing, and my stash of watery beer and twinkles runs short.

Monday, 14 June 2010

THE LAND OF THE FREE: (Hodgenville, Kentucky, USA)

Arriving at Abraham Lincoln's birthplace for a quick half hour visit before closing time, we found the gates closed as we realised we had crossed a time zone from Tennessee. Now, having made a 50 mile detour, would Abe have wanted us to choose 'the pursuit of happiness' and the American way….and break in anyways, using our freedom for a noble purpose, but risking perhaps the wrath of the parkies for breaking into a federal state monument? Or should we not 'do a Kris' and wreck our fun road trip with a stay in one of the South's finest penitentiaries? "Let's go in" we thought. The home of the brave…or just plain stoopid in my case.

We opted to go direct to the parkies with the old chestnut, "Since you threw all our tea into the sea and stole our colony, perhaps you could see to it to let us stroll in and take a photo old chap?" The fellow was most genial. You gotta love that American 'can do' mentality. This really is turning out to be a 'Tour of Heroes', with visits already made to Dr King, Stevie Wonder, and President Lincoln, Neko's fav architect Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as plans for the Mohammed Ali museum, and of course, Prince's Paisley Park in Minneapolis. Our visit with Obama has to take a rain check as he's up to his eyes in oil.

The oil is still burning off the surface of the Gulf of Mexico - makes for a pretty sunset eh? Thanks BP.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

BONNAROO: (Manchester, Tennessee, USA)

So, there we were, 'hell-bound' for the Country Music Festival in Nashville, when some top Aussie guys in Memphis told us about a huge 'mainstream' music festival nearby. We hot-tailed it up the 'Music Highway' to Nashville, hoping to stop briefly for some hot grits and butter at 'Loretta Lynn's Kitchen' restaurant, but she was closed so had to settle for Arby's. We got a free 'truckers shower'* thanks to my charming British accent (that is, a shower at a service station!).

We had been really disappointed about missing Glastonbury with what looked like a fab line-up. In particular, I've always wanted to see Stevie Wonder. Well guessy what? We saw him, as well as Calexico, Regina Spector, Medeski Martin & Wood, John Butler Trio, The Dead Weather (very nice), Jay Z, SNorah Jones, Mumford & Sons (great to represent - especially as we didn't get to see them with George & Zoe in Bombay a few months back), Deadmau5 (scary crazy electro trance house DJ???), and more.

I didn't quite get what Jay Z was trying to do - headlining after Stevie Wonder, following a civil rights ambassador, taking all sorts of political high ground with inane comments about oil and afghanistan, interspersed with pontificating about his 10 or 11 number ones, and that only he can be mentioned in the same breath as Biggy Smalls & 2Pac. His crowd-response repartee of "what nigga", with a 90 percent white audience from Tenessee replying "nigga what" seemed a confusing message for the kids. My honky middle class ass may have totally missed the point, but there were black people being lynched here just fifty years ago - that's a short time in history. Nauseating stuff. Wonder if Stevie stuck around for the show? Killer tunes though.

World cup footy: America win 1-1
The only other real low point was seeing the usually amusing Conan O'Brien drunk and obnoxious on stage, and having to suffer the annoying chants of Americans cheering at their 'soccer  victory' (1-1 tie) against England (despite the other Stevie Wonder's efforts) to kick start the World Cup. Neko cheered for England bless 'er, but only cos its a sport Americans care nearly nothing for.

Neko looks amused...
*I expect comments from Lee.